The A.M. Turing Award, regarded in academic circles as the 'Nobel Prize' of computer science, has been awarded to Prof. Adi Shamir of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Shamir shares the award with Ronald L. Rivest of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Leonard M. Adleman of the University of Southern California. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) presented the award to them in its annual meeting.
While working at M.I.T. in 1977, the three scientists developed an algorithm that was later called RSA (the acronym for their last names). Used worldwide to secure Internet, banking and credit card transactions, the RSA algorithm allows for the delivery and deciphering of encrypted codes between parties that have never previously been in contact. The time needed to crack some versions of the code, which is based on the multiplication of two very large prime numbers and the difficulty in deducing those prime numbers from their product, is estimated at millions of years.
Among the numerous applications of this research are smart cards, regularly installed in household television sets to ensure that only subscribers receive TV satellite broadcasts. The smart card also allows the company activating the satellite to charge its customers only for programs viewed by them.
Shamir began his acquaintance with the Weizmann Institute of Science as a teenager participating in its youth activities. He later earned his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees at the Weizmann Institute and spent three years at M.I.T. He then returned to the Institute, publishing numerous articles and receiving several prestigious awards, including ACM's Kanellakis Award, the Erdos Prize of the Israel Mathematical Society, the IEEE's W.R.G. Baker Prize, the UAP Scientific Prize, The Vatican's PIUS XI Gold Medal and the IEEE Koji Kobayashi Computers and Communications Award.
Second winner at Weizmann
In 1996, the A.M. Turing Award was conferred on Prof. Amir Pnueli, also a Weizmann Institute computer scientist, for his contributions to program and systems verification. Prof. Michael Rabin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Harvard University received the award in 1976 for his research on nondeterministic machines. The award has been presented annually since 1966 to individuals who have made contributions of 'lasting and major technical importance in the field of computer science.'
THE CODE CRACKERS
The English mathematician Alan Turing, for whom the prize is named, cracked the German coding system 'Enigma' with his team during World War II, using a system he developed, called 'Bomba.' Many historians believe that this achievement actually decided the Battle of the Atlantic in favor of the Allies.
Prof. Shamir's research is supported by Mr. Mickey Cohen, Director of Technologies, SoftChip Technologies (3000) Ltd.; Mr. Junichi Hattori, Executive Vice President, SII-Seiko Instruments Inc.; Mr. Takeo Hiyama, President/CEO, Abit Corp.; and Ms. Yuko Ishida, President/CEO, Japan Datacom. He is the incumbent of the Paul & Marlene Borman Professorial Chair of Applied Mathematics.